Court Asked To Uphold Order Allowing Webcast
"In general, we're big fans of the Internet and if the Internet can be used to give us more access to our government, that's a good thing," said Cindy Cohen, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Federal district court judge Nancy Gertner in Boston authorized the Webcast in the record industry's lawsuit against alleged file-sharer Joel Tenenbaum earlier this month. The Recording Industry Association filed an emergency appeal of Gertner's order allowing the Courtroom View Network to stream proceedings and the Berkman Center to host the coverage. Tenenbaum's lawyer, Harvard professor Charles Nesson, founded the Berkman Center.
The record industry argues that Gertner's order violated local rules about cameras in the courtroom. The RIAA also contends that the Webcast could hurt their public image because people might re-edit the digital video in misleading ways. In addition, the record industry objects to the portion of order allowing Berkman Center to host on the ground that the organization publishes anti-record industry "propaganda."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation said in its brief that the case is a matter of intense public interest, largely because the RIAA has sued or threatened to sue more than 35,000 individuals in the last five years. "What transpires in these courts should be available to all members of the public, whether they can travel to the courthouse or not," the group argued.
The organization also questioned whether the RIAA's fear that others would re-edit the clips made sense, given that court transcripts have long been available to the public in text form. "These files, which require only a basic word processor to edit, are manifestly more vulnerable to the types of manipulation that petitioners posit than video files, which require some level of skill to edit and splice," the group argues.
The EFF also said that two non-profits, Public.Resource.org and Internet Archive, were willing to host the Webcast. Both of those groups joined in the friend-of-the-court brief, as did several other organizations including Free Press, the Media Access Project and the California First Amendment Coalition. One signatory--copyright lawyer Ben Sheffner, who authors the blog Copyrights & Campaigns--said he supports the labels' lawsuits, but favors a Webcast in this case. "I just think everyone who can't attend the Boston hearing in person (like me!) should have the opportunity to watch as well," he wrote on his blog.
Others groups and individuals, including at least one lawmaker--Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.)--also asked the First Circuit to uphold Gertner's Webcast order. The RIAA said last month it will stop filing lawsuits against individuals, but cases already in the system, such as Tenenbaum's, are continuing.